Thursday, November 14, 2013

Get vaccinated if you want

Julia Ioffe writes in the New Republic:
I've Got Whooping Cough. Thanks a Lot, Jenny McCarthy.

It’s funny having the whooping cough [aka pertussis] at 31 in 2013. ...

The problem is that it is not an individual choice; it is a choice that acutely affects the rest of us. Vaccinations work by creating something called herd immunity: When most of a population is immunized against a disease, it protects even those in it who are not vaccinated, either because they are pregnant or babies or old or sick. For herd immunity to work, 95 percent of the population needs to be immunized. But the anti-vaccinators have done a good job undermining it. In 2010, for example, only 91 percent of California kindergarteners were up to date on their shots.
Maybe only 91% are up-to-date, but about 98% eventually get all of the recommended shots. But why is she blaming McCarthy and kids?

Ioffe admits that she had not gotten the pertussis vaccine booster herself, even tho the CDC has been recommending it for adults since 2005:
Okay, a lot of people have been asking me since I posted a little ditty about having whooping cough, the common name for pertussis: Was I vaccinated? Others have accused me of being part of the problem: If I knew the vaccine wore off, why didn't I get a booster? ... there is no reason for me to get a pertussis booster.
She explains that she did not get the vaccine because she was freeloading off the herd immunity of kids. Now she has immunity from having the disease.

But we have never had herd immunity for pertussis. Teenagers and adults commonly get it, but it is usually undiagnosed because it appears to be just a nasty cough. Fortunately very few adults get the disease as bad as what Ioffe describes.

It is a little crazy to blame McCarthy for pertussis. Ioffe probably got the disease from another adult who failed to get the recommended vaccine. McCarthy is not a medical expert, and does not even have any opinion about adult booster shots, as far as I know. Ioffe is the one who is spreading medical misinformation in The New Republic magazine.

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